[DDD] Don’t make success a negative

“Your reward is: no punishment.”

Have you ever been in that situation? That the best you could hope for was not to be scolded? What a disheartening feeling.

Yet many organisations operate like that. And they may not even be aware.

How many metrics you record are negative metrics? The number of bugs found. The duration of service outages. Important metrics, no doubt, but certainly ones that focus on negative things occurring.

The problem is: if you look primarily at things going wrong, then people will do the reasonable thing of improving these metrics. Avoiding errors.

Avoiding errors is a good thing, but it’s not enough. Shouldn’t you also give a lot of weight to moving forward, improving your success, becoming better? Not sliding backwards is fine, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.

What’s more: you’re destined to fail. In any reasonably complex systems, there will always be mistakes. People will always mess something up. There’s no point in feeling bad about it, and staring at failures.

Record things that went wrong, measure them. But then go beyond that and measure how good you are, and how you’re getting better.

Count bugs, sure. But then track them over time and watch how you’re finding less of them. That is a metric to aim for.

Focusing on avoiding errors is debilitating when used as the objective of an organisation. Focus on being better.

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